Conference on Disarmament Hears General Statements by 18 States on Various Threats to International Peace and Security
The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard general statements by 18 States on various threats to international peace and security. It also heard three right of reply statements.
Speaking in the morning meeting in general statements were Chile, Canada, Ukraine, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Peru, Netherlands, Iran, Japan, Austria, Norway, Germany, Syria, United States, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom and India.
Speaking in right of reply were Israel, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Pakistan.
The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will continue to hear general statements.
Ambassador LI SONG of China (Disarmament), President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he would give the floor to remaining speakers on his list.
Chile said that as this was Chile’s first intervention before the Conference after having finished its Presidency on 31 December, it would make some brief reflections on the work and challenges of this body, in particular considering the complex security situation facing the international community. For Chile, it had been an honour and a challenge to assume the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. In procedural terms, having the informal mechanism of the P-6 had been a fundamental support. However, having a coordination mechanism was no guarantee of success. The Conference’s stagnation was concerning and its existence was justified only by "past glories" as it had not been able to fulfil its mandate for more than two decades. The Conference had become a forum for discussions and bilateral accusations and this situation could not be accepted. All must support the efforts to improve the efficiency of the work of the Conference and, in particular, the President’s efforts to finally achieve a work programme. The Conference on Disarmament was a means to consolidate peaceful coexistence between nations by confronting the urgent challenges that lay ahead.
Chile remained very concerned about the status of the main items on the agenda of the Conference and the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work in multilateral fora. Concerning nuclear disarmament, Chile welcomed the joint statement of the nuclear weapon countries at the beginning of this year but was concerned about the increasing modernisation of nuclear arsenals and the lack of specific commitments on disarmament. For initiatives like the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to be successful, they must be accompanied by specific actions towards the elimination of these weapons. Another issue of concern for Chile was the urgent need to reach an agreement to ensure that no nuclear-weapon State threatened non-nuclear-weapon States with their use. Chile was also concerned about the risk of an arms race in outer space. Chile reiterated the importance of the gender dimension in the Conference and the need to see concrete actions aimed at implementing gender equality. Also, the principles of multilateralism must prevail. Chile supported the expansion of membership in the work of the Conference and urged States to avoid "vetoing" requests made by non-member States to observe the work of the Conference.
Canada said the rules-based international order was under significant strain, with inflexible national positions limiting the space for compromise. This could be seen clearly in the Conference on Disarmament. Canada reiterated its serious disappointment with the inability of the Conference to adopt a programme of work. Meanwhile, the list of challenges was growing longer. Among these challenges was a lack of any progress towards global nuclear disarmament. Canada actively participated in inter-regional groups such as the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative and the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament, which provided a common approach to find pragmatic and significant ways to promote the implementation of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. Canada also called for the immediate start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. What was needed now was political will that was decisive in order to move forward.
Canada was deeply disappointed that the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in December could not agree on a more ambitious and results-oriented mandate, despite an overwhelming majority of States being in favour. Canada urged all countries to join the Arms Trade Treaty. No less attention and priority was demanded to address chemical weapons threats. The Chemical Weapons Convention remained under serious stress as exhibited by Syria’s ongoing lack of compliance and unresolved questions concerning the use of Novichok-type chemical weapons. The COVID-19 pandemic must drive a renewed commitment to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention at this year’s Ninth Review Conference and to resist efforts to undermine the independence of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism. Canada had long supported the consideration of a ban on anti-satellite weapons tests that produced space debris and it supported the establishment of the Open-Ended Working Group to develop norms and principles of responsible behaviours. Canada also regretted that the Conference was unable to reach consensus on a technical update to its rules of procedure to reflect the equality of women and men.
Ukraine said that against the backdrop to evolving challenges and threats to international peace and security, the Conference on Disarmament had become even more relevant. Ukraine supported its resumption of substantive work and commencement of talks on a range of important agreements, including a treaty banning the production of fissile materials and nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, and a legally-binding instrument on security assurances of non-use and non-threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States. Ukraine wished to refer to the current security context, in which it continued to thrive to find breakthrough solutions. For the eighth consecutive year, Ukraine had been countering external aggression from its neighbour, the Russian Federation. Around 7 per cent of the territory of Ukraine remained under foreign occupation. Russia was selling this to the world as an internal conflict in Ukraine. The Russian Federation continued to build up its military capability by stationing over 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, and in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea, combined with tens of thousands of Russian occupation forces in parts of the Donbas. This military power continued to recklessly endanger peoples’ lives and threatened Europe with a new military assault.
The Kremlin’s strategic goal was to make Ukraine a failed State, leaving it as a grey zone of instability between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Against this backdrop, the Russian Federation had demanded so-called security guarantees from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russia’s demands related to Ukraine were illegitimate and unacceptable. Ukraine was a sovereign State and had its own right to choose its own security arrangements. Today, strong political messages and further practical steps were needed to deter Russia from further aggression. The current global arms control infrastructure had been deeply affected by the actions of certain countries, including the progressive militarisation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea, among others. Ukraine would never tire to reiterate the negative impact on the global security architecture of the blatant violations by the Russian Federation of the Budapest New Memorandum. Russia also persistently breached the provisions of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in the context of its aggression against Ukraine.
Argentina said the complex context of international security that was seen today made it absolutely necessary for the Conference on Disarmament to overcome the paralysis it found itself in, which was undermining its credibility and threatening its work. A programme of work was needed to create a framework for the Conference’s discussions and achieve tangible progress. Argentina hoped that the Conference could start negotiations as soon as possible on instruments that would help reach a world free of nuclear weapons, including a treaty on the prohibition of fissile material, a treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space, and a legally binding instrument of a global nature on negative security assurances. Argentina welcomed the joint statement made on the prevention of a nuclear arms race by the P-5 and urged them to continue dialogue and translate this into specific steps. The Conference on Disarmament was of crucial importance for countries like Argentina that had renounced the nuclear option from a military point of view. Clear political will from all members was needed. It was crucial to adopt a programme of work that allowed the Conference to start substantive work and overcome the 20-year stalemate.
Republic of Korea said the Government of the Republic of Korea expressed its support for the joint statement of the five nuclear weapon States on preventing nuclear war and avoiding an arms races. It hoped that this would contribute to enabling an atmosphere for the progress of the work of the Conference and provide a successful basis for the outcome of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The difficulties caused by COVID-19 had been affecting collective efforts for almost two years, but this should not hinder the Conference from starting the new year with a new sense of hope and determination to move forward. The priority of the Conference should be the commencement of the fissile material cut-off treaty negotiations at the earliest possible stage. The Republic of Korea understood that there were various views regarding what the highest priority of the Conference should be. At the same time, States should not forget the issue of a technical update for the gender-neutral rules of procedure of the Conference and hoped that progress could be made on this front in 2022. It also hoped that the engagement and listening to the voice of youth in the Conference continued.
The Republic of Korea supported multilateralism and believed that inclusiveness should be fully respected in the Conference. All United Nations Member States should be given the opportunity to participate in the work of the Conference and the Republic of Korea supported requests for participation in the work of the Conference from non-member States as observers this year.
The de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula continued to be one of the key issues to be addressed for the sake of international peace and security. The Republic of Korea expressed its deep regret over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s repeated launching of missiles this year. It was imperative to embark on a dialogue as soon as possible and the Republic of Korea continued to look to the international community for its invaluable support to this end.
Russian Federation said 2021 had seen many important political events that directly related to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. Last February, the New Start Treaty was extended for five years, enabled by the good will of both Russia and the United States. The Geneva Summit last June had provided an impetus to the resumption of Russia’s dialogue with the United States on the entire range of issues related to the maintenance of strategic stability. Although it was premature to talk about significant progress, the business-like and professional spirit in the work of the delegations gave ground for optimism. The leaders of the five nuclear weapon States had adopted on 3 January this year an historical statement related to the unacceptability of nuclear war and the need to avoid an arms race. This common understanding should be placed in the foundation of the preparation of a new multilateral regime of arms control and give an additional push to the process of nuclear disarmament. The joint statement stressed that the nuclear weapons of the five nuclear States were not targeted against each other or against any other country, and described the intention to use diplomatic approaches to avoid military confrontation, among others.
Overall, the situation in the area of international security continued to worsen. This was happening because of the dismantling of some key international instruments, like the Open Skies Treaty. In order to reverse such negative trends, the Russian Federation had presented new initiatives in the area of international security, including drafts of international treaties with the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on legal guarantees for security in Europe, including measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and States Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the treaty between Russia and the United States on security guarantees. These drafts included specific proposals to overcome problems of security in the European continent. This was the only way that security in Europe could be ensured. Yesterday, the United States had responded to the draft bilateral treaty and Russia was presently analysing this response. Such events could be a very good background for normalising work in the Conference and launching robust work related to negotiations on the basis of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work.
Despite the limited composition of the Conference on Disarmament, it was the inalienable right of any Member State to be granted observer status, according to the rules of procedure. The Russian Federation continued to stick to this position of principle and urged all other delegations to do the same. Russia was in favour of an outer space that was free from weapons of any type and it proposed and promoted specific practical measures to prevent an arms race in outer space through the conclusion of a legally binding agreement with the participation of all space-faring nations that would provide a ban on the launching and placement of weapons in outer space and the use of force or threat of the use of force against space objects. Russia and China had proposed a draft treaty of this nature. The difficult reality in the world today, which was also reflected in the work of the Conference, did not give the opportunity to start negotiations on the draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects and other questions on the agenda. Russia had proposed to colleagues to work on a less ambitious objective for the international community to elaborate in the Conference on Disarmament a convention on combatting acts of chemical and biological terrorism.
Peru said the Conference on Disarmament had produced important instruments that had affected international peace and security, and yet, its work had been paralysed for over 25 years, in a context that was alarming where geopolitical analysis reanimated the possibility of armed conflict. New technologies opened up new potential areas of conflict, such as outer space and cyber space. Military expenditure continued to increase. Peru took note of the joint statement by the P-5 which seemed to express a desire to avoid a nuclear-based confrontation and to reduce strategic risks. This statement produced the first glimmers of hope so that the military powers could turn their words into actions through strong political will. Peru, which was a peace-loving country, was part of all treaties on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, and it promoted nuclear free zones around the world. Peru noted with concern the recent rise of tensions in the international community and appealed to the main military powers to settle their differences through dialogue and diplomacy.
The Conference on Disarmament must show its relevance once again and bring wills together for the benefit of peace, and so counter the increasing mistrusts. The adoption of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work would be the most concrete expression of a political will to renew the substantive work of the Conference as a multilateral forum.
Netherlands deeply regretted the lack of substantive progress, due to the pandemic, as well as political circumstances, that had stopped the Conference from focussing on the substance of the agenda since 2019. The programme of work was not an end in itself, but merely a planning to structure the work of the Conference. For the Netherlands, the commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices remained a key priority. In a similar vein, developments in outer space were increasingly cause for concern. The Open-Ended Working Group, established by General Assembly resolution 76/231, provided an excellent opportunity to make progress. Its establishment outside the Conference and its being open to all United Nations Member States was a consequence of the continued deadlock of the Conference and the exclusion of other United Nations Member States from its deliberations. The Netherlands had long supported a dialogue on the improved and effective functioning of the Conference, which should include work on updating the rules of procedure as proposed last year by Canada.
The Netherlands believed in the need for a strong and continued commitment to the strengthening and implementation of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was a collective responsibility to use the Review Conference to set new goals in order to address the current challenges to the multilateral and security environment. In the context of the Treaty, nuclear disarmament verification, risk reduction, crisis stability and crisis management were major points of attention for the Netherlands. The Netherlands welcomed the joint statement of the five nuclear-weapon States of 3 January on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races – in particular the affirmation that a nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought. The integrity and full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remained of priority and the Netherlands urged Iran to return to full compliance with it.
The substantial and unprovoked military build-up on the borders of Ukraine, in combination with Russia’s aggressive rhetoric, was cause for serious concern. The Netherlands called on the Russian federation to de-escalate and to engage in dialogue. Equally, the Netherlands remained concerned about the increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and called on that country to cease repeated missile tests and dismantle their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes in a verifiable and irreversible way.
Iran said in 2021, the whole international security environment had further deteriorated, as international conflicts increased, a full-fledged qualitative and quantitative nuclear arms race continued, and key international disarmament and arms control agreements remained in serious jeopardy. The rise of conventional military expenditure and arms sales in many parts of the world was also alarming. More sophisticated armaments were poured in by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and others, keeping the Middle East a top destination for weapons and building the atrocious arms race across the region. The arms exporters continued to make profit at the cost of innocent peoples. Against this reality, the nature, role and mandate of the Conference on Disarmament, as the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, should be emphasised. The Conference was best placed to move the international community forward in its long quest for a world free of nuclear weapons. It was regrettable that the Conference continued to face a prolonged deadlock due to the lack of political will, particularly on the part of nuclear-weapon States.
While witnessing the adoption of new nuclear policies by some nuclear States, Iran continued to believe that the most effective guarantee against the danger of nuclear war and the use of nuclear weapons was nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament should be at the top of the Conference on Disarmament’s priorities. Non-nuclear-weapon States had the right to negative security assurances. Nearly five decades ago, Iran had proposed establishing a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, but the realisation of this had been blocked by the “Israeli regime”, which rejected, violated and ignored all international instruments on weapons of mass destruction. It continued to be the only impediment in realising a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.
Concerning negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, following the United States’ unwarranted unilateral withdrawal in May 2018, Iran continued to engage in all good faith with other participants in order to pave the way for the full implementation of commitments under the instrument. The ball was in the other side’s court.
Israel, speaking in a point of order, demanded that Iran, a country that violated international agreements and undermined the stability of the Middle East, refer to Israel by its official name, the State of Israel.
Japan hoped that the Conference would adopt as early as possible a programme of work under China’s able leadership so that the Conference would be able to resume its role as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum. As for the participation of non-member States in the Conference as observers, Japan believed that the participation of a greater number of States contributed to making the work of the Conference more relevant. The Conference needed to prioritise its substantive work according to the degree of maturity of each subject. From that perspective, Japan reiterated the importance of the immediate commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons should be convened at the earliest possible date in conditions conducive to meaningful outcomes. In this regard, Japan welcomed the statement by which the leaders of all five nuclear-weapons States affirmed for the first time that a nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought, since this would contribute to increase momentum for realising a world without nuclear weapons. For further increasing momentum for the Review Conference, Japan and the United States had released the Japan-United States joint statement on 21 January, wholly reaffirming their commitment to the Treaty.
With regard to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, Japan hoped for an appropriate discussion on outer space in order to address the increasing risks for sustainable and peaceful use of outer space, taking into account the resolution on “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours”, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
The development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by “North Korea”, including the recent series of ballistic missile launches, posed a serious challenge to the international community. Japan was strongly committed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all of “North Korea’s” nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, as well as related programmes and facilities. Japan urged that country to abide by all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a point of order, said Japan did not use the official name of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was not “North Korea”.
Austria said the number of nuclear-armed States had increased since the end of the Cold War. Billions were being invested in the development of new, "easier to use" nuclear bombs and arsenals were being expanded. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to develop its nuclear and missile programmes, which Austria strongly condemned. At the same time, the willingness to deal transparently with the possession and possible use of these weapons by those possessing them was declining. It was unacceptable that some States invoked national security reasons to justify the possession of nuclear weapons but in fact permanently threatened mass destruction with global devastation and hence the security of all. This was a view of security that was not only anachronistic, it was also an ultimately irresponsible gamble with common security.
Austria welcomed the joint affirmation by the five nuclear armed States of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty that a nuclear conflict could not be won and must never be fought. Such statements must also be matched by urgent and overdue concrete actions. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had now been in force for over one year. It was an important step taken by a majority of States to take concrete steps and support the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Austria looked forward to the first meeting of States parties in Vienna to provide a further positive impetus and invited all States to participate.
While the world faced dangerous tensions and other fora were working overtime to provide multilateral answers, the Conference remained fossilised and frozen. For the Conference to again be a relevant and credible forum, it must demonstrate its readiness to work, adapt to current realities and fulfil the mandate entrusted to it by the international community. Austria was extremely concerned about tendencies that challenged the disarmament regime, and the use of procedural manoeuvres in the past to delay, undermine or even prevent substantive exchanges and productive work. It hoped that this year could be used to finally return to concrete work on the issues on the agenda of the Conference. Strong political will, increased trust and flexibility were urgently required from all members of the Conference if they were to break the impasse and bring the Conference back on track. Austria also expressed support for improving gender equality in the Conference and of making it more inclusive. It deeply regretted any decision to block the participation of United Nations Member States as observers.
Norway said that negotiating new instruments was the aim and the raison d’être of the Conference on Disarmament. The past 20 years had, unfortunately, been meagre in terms of results and the Conference had fallen short of its potential – both as a negotiation forum, and as a deliberative body. Norway hoped that 2022 would be the year that the Conference found the political will and flexibility to move forward. International tensions were alarmingly high. Some States seemed to increase the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines. Some were even expanding their nuclear arsenals. Proliferation was a serious concern. Risks and tensions were increasing in outer space. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was still not in force. Chemical weapons had been used on a number of occasions in the past years. COVID had repeatedly set back the Review Conference of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. All in all, it had not been a good time for multilateral disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. There had been some high points, including the extension of the New Start Treaty last year, and the sustained P-5 dialogue on the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The tense geo-political situation required that the international community shifted gears. The first order of business was to quickly agree on a programme of work. It should be as simple as possible. The comprehensive approach - integrating a workplan, subcommittees and mandates in one package - had effectively barred the Conference from working on the substance of its agenda in the past 20 plus years. The programme of work should merely allocate time to the various agenda items. The content and direction of the work under each agenda item could and should be settled separately. In the name of multilateralism, all United Nations Member States that wished to observe the proceedings of the Conference should be allowed to do so. Norway hoped that more than two decades of stalemate would finally provide the impetus needed for this Conference to start a structured debate on its working methods and effective functioning. The Conference should prepare the ground for negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty as the issue was over-ripe for action. Norway also looked forward to a structured debate on outer space during this session of the Conference, to complement the Open-Ended Working Group on responsible behaviours that was due to start its work in the next few weeks.
Germany said the current deadlock in the Conference must be overcome to allow this unique forum to deliver its mission. The fact that Russia was still amassing soldiers and equipment at the border with Ukraine did not contribute to stabilising the fragile security environment in Europe. Germany hoped that bilateral contacts, such as the Geneva talks between the United and Russia last week, continued and led to concrete results. Germany and France were intensifying efforts in the Normandy format to stabilise the Donbas. There were other efforts to promote diplomatic solutions that would take into account the interests of all parties involved. At the same time, the world was still confronted with other security challenges. The ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the flaring up of regional tensions in Africa and Asia, and the continuous developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and ballistic missiles arsenal were still a major challenge. Concerning Iran, Germany remained fully committed to the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 22/31 and of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Germany called on Iran to contribute in a constructive manner to a successful conclusion of the ongoing negotiations in Vienna. It also called on Iran to refrain from activities with ballistic missile designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
In such difficult times, arms control was an indispensable tool to manage and reduce tensions. Germany was fully committed to the task of the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate disarmament and non-proliferation instruments. Germany welcomed the strategic talks between the United States and Russia and hoped it would continue to lay the groundwork for future nuclear arms control arrangements. Germany was encouraged by the recent statement of the five nuclear weapons States. At the same time, concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament were needed. The Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty remained the irreplaceable framework for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, with success on all its three pillars. The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was long overdue and Germany called on all States that had not signed and ratified it to do so now. Equally important was the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty.
At the Conference, the establishment of subsidiary bodies in 2018 had proved to be a constructive way ahead. Should a programme of work turn out to be once again politically unachievable, Germany was very much in favour of resuming the subsidiary bodies in 2022 in order to re-start the fruitful discussion on all topics in a balanced manner as soon as possible. The Conference should also continue to work on a technical update of its rules of procedure to reflect the equality of women and men.
Syria agreed that the current international security context and its ramifications on the Conference should be taken into account. An innovative approach had to be adopted under the agenda items while maintaining the mandate of the Conference as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating body. Syria supported inclusiveness and balance in any potential programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament, including the items on its agenda. The stalemate in the Conference was caused by the excessive politicisation of certain countries and lack of political will, rather than any other reason relating to rules of procedures or methods of work. As the world faced unprecedented threats within the security environment that had seen increasing tensions and military provocations around the world, international peace and security were at risk. In the Middle East, Israel continued its aggressive behaviour and continued to accumulate conventional and non-conventional arsenals, including nuclear weapons. This was the primary threat to the lack of stability and security in the region. The international community had to undertake its responsibility and realise a Middle East zone free from weapons of mass destruction. Such zones were a primary contribution to realising the goals of the Nuclear Weapon Non-Proliferation Treaty and nuclear disarmament.
Syria had undertaken numerous steps in support of a Middle East zone free from weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, the continuous position of the United States and Israel to reject participating in the Conference on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons clearly flouted the international will to establish such zones. The erosion of commitments on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the continued threats of a nuclear war, the weaponisation of outer space, and threats of certain terrorist groups of acquiring nuclear weapons, reaffirmed the need to resuscitate the substantive work of the Conference. Syria supported reaching a balanced and comprehensive programme of work.
United States said President Biden had joined the leaders of China, France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom in a P-5 statement stating that nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought. This statement also made clear why action was required from all nations represented in the Conference today. All States must work together to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Historically, the Conference on Disarmament had made fundamental contributions to international peace and security. Unfortunately, for over 20 years, it had also been gridlocked and stymied in its potential for progress. Nationally, the United States had made significant progress towards disarmament, reducing the total United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile and the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy. The United States had been clear that diplomacy was the more durable path to stability and security and it urged Russia to de-escalate from its current build up in Europe to enable them to walk the path of diplomacy together. Building on the momentum of the P-5’s prevention of nuclear war statement, the United States and China should move quickly to engage on nuclear risk reduction matters.
The United States supported the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and was committed to work to achieve its entry into force. It also continued to support the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. On outer space security matters, the United States welcomed the upcoming meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours. It looked forward to the start of these discussions. This was an important opportunity for all to move past the stale and fundamentally flawed arms control proposals on space that had been the focus of the Conference for too long. Among other shortcomings, these proposals failed to address the threat demonstrated by ground-based anti-satellite weapons, such as the irresponsible and dangerous destructive anti-satellite missile test the Russian Federation conducted on November 15, 2021. That was why the upcoming Open-Ended Working Group was an important opportunity for all States to develop norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviour that enhanced space security and reduced the threat of miscalculations leading to conflict.
The United States was very disappointed that the proposal to update the rules of procedure of the Conference with gender inclusive “technical/linguistic changes” did not achieve consensus at the last session. This was a long-overdue update that would help bring the Conference at last into the twenty-first century, and the United States supported efforts to find a way forward on this issue. The United States emphasised the need to facilitate women and gender-diverse persons’ participation and representation in all levels of policymaking, planning, and implementation processes related to disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control. It also welcomed discussions on the Conference’s membership, working methods, or any other topic that could help make it more effective. It looked forward to welcoming all requests from States asking to observe the Conference on Disarmament’s 2022 session.
Kazakhstan welcomed the joint statement by the leaders of the five nuclear weapon States on preventing nuclear war and avoiding a nuclear arms race. Kazakhstan believed that the only guarantee against the existential threat to humanity caused by nuclear weapons was their total elimination. Kazakhstan was an active supporter of nuclear disarmament and called on all countries to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons for achieving a world without nuclear weapons. This treaty did not substitute but complimented the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which remained a cornerstone of the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. The upcoming Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was facing an unprecedented period of global uncertainty. It was mandatory to create nuclear weapon free zones all over the world as they played an important role in establishing regional and international peace and stability, advancing disarmament processes and strengthening the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty regime.
Kazakhstan believed that the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament was an important contribution towards a sustainable outcome to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The President of Kazakhstan had proposed establishing a specific multilateral body – the International Body for Biological Safety – to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Kazakhstan planned to convene a conference this spring to explore ways to implement this proposal. It was of critical importance to maintain and strengthen the Conference as the sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations and States were urged to overcome differences to allow the Conference to start its substantive work. All United Nations Member States should have the right to participate and observe the work of the Conference.
United Kingdom said that in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Conference on Disarmament was opening against the backdrop of a deteriorated global security environment, an increase in global competition, challenges to the international order, and the proliferation of potentially disruptive technologies. The threats facing the United Kingdom and its allies were increasing in scale, complexity and diversity. In particular, the United Kingdom was gravely concerned about the situation on the borders of Ukraine and it unequivocally supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, including Crimea. The United Kingdom, its allies and partners would continue to support its regional partners, and remained open to efforts by Russia to reduce tensions. Russia must pursue a path of diplomacy, and engage with transparency and de-escalation mechanisms. These serious global tensions made the work of this Conference, and the wider United Nations disarmament machinery, ever more important.
The joint statement was the first time that the leaders of the five nuclear weapon States had made such a collective high-level political declaration. It sent an important message on strategic risk reduction, which was elaborated upon in the joint working paper submitted by the five to the Review Conference of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Kingdom was committed to efforts to reduce strategic risks and to create dialogue among States possessing nuclear weapons, and between States possessing nuclear weapons and non-nuclear weapon States, in order to increase understanding and reduce the risk of misinterpretation and miscalculation. The United Kingdom hoped that they would finally be able to hold the Review Conference this year. The other main priority for this year was space security. The United Kingdom hoped that the Open-Ended Working Group, which would meet in Geneva, would draw the links between space threats and how they impacted national, regional and global security, showing how responsible State behaviour could build trust, avoid miscalculation and escalation, and thus prevent an arms race and conflict in space.
The United Kingdom remained ready to engage in substantive discussions on all agenda items. It had consistently supported the creation of subsidiary bodies to work towards negotiating mandates on the core issues. However, if it again proved impossible to agree on their re-establishment, it believed that allocating time to discuss each of the agenda items in formal and informal plenaries would be a good alternative. The United Kingdom continued to support a simple technical update to the rules of procedure to reflect the equality of women and men. It also wished to place on record its views on the question of observers. All United Nations Member States should be able to participate in the work of this Conference as observers.
India said the world needed an effective and functioning Conference on Disarmament more than ever, a Conference that was able to fully discharge its mandate to negotiate legally-binding instruments. India was committed to the goal of universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament and had called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons through a step-by-step process. India attached high importance to the Conference as the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum and hoped for an early start of substantive work in the Conference in keeping with its mandate as a negotiating forum. Without diminishing the priority India attached to disarmament, it had supported the immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference of a fissile material cut-off treaty, which remained the most suitable basis for negotiations to commence. India had welcomed the joint statement by the P-5 leaders, which reaffirmed the importance of addressing nuclear threats and underscored the desire to work towards creating a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all. As a responsible nuclear weapon State, India had a doctrine of maintaining a credible minimum deterrence based on a no first use posture and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States.
Despite considerable efforts in the past, the Conference had not been able to adopt a programme of work by consensus since May 2009. The Conference had agreed to work in the format of subsidiary bodies in 2018, however, even that had been not been possible for the last three years. India appreciated the President’s efforts in holding extensive consultations with Member States, including that with the Indian delegation, and looked forward to receiving the draft programme of work during the upcoming plenary session. India was confident that under the President’s leadership and guidance, the Conference would achieve a consensus on a programme of work for this year.
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply, took the floor in response to the insinuations and claims made by India at the plenary on Tuesday, 25 January. Pakistan categorically rejected these insinuations that had no factual basis. Under international law, India was the illegal occupier of Jammu and Kashmir, which remained an internationally recognised disputed territory. It never was and would never be an integral part of India.
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